The impacts of climate change are here and so too are our efforts to build the climate ready projects we’ll need to adapt. Since 2019, Green Building United has received funding from the William Penn Foundation (WPF) to understand how climate change affects WPF capital investments, in both buildings and greenspaces. Climate impacts in the Philadelphia region are already increasing flood risk, storm intensity, and extreme heat, while worsening air quality. Foundation grantees are experiencing infrastructure loss and asset damage due to these impacts. Both WPF and GBU see solutions at the intersection of resilience and cost effectiveness; if grantee projects are designed to be more sustainable and resilient from the start, funders know they are making lasting investments. Over time, grantees save money on lower utility bills and fewer repairs, resulting in more resources for mission-aligned work.
Between 2020 and 2022, GBU interviewed organizations who had received WPF funding for capital improvements to understand what challenges they face in their facilities and what type of structural projects they have planned in the future. Many of these organizations noted that when thinking about new construction, renovation, and retrofit projects, even when sustainability is a priority they often don’t know where to begin or who to contact. Changing past practices to promote sustainability and resiliency can create an added layer of uncertainty for overstretched staff, typically focused on mission-oriented work and not on design. To explore how to bridge these gaps, GBU piloted technical assistance to two WPF grantees in Philadelphia, Called-to-Serve Community Development Corporation and FringeArts. Both organizations were embarking on major facility renovations and were interested in embedding principles of sustainability and resilience into their designs.
Building on lessons learned from grantee interviews and pilot technical assistance (outlined on our case studies page) in early 2023 Green Building United received a grant from WPF to create a comprehensive program to support grantees managing capital improvement projects. The program will feature:
GBU and supporting consultants will help WPF grantees select appropriate goals for their projects (e.g., switching out fossil fuel systems for heat pumps, or pursuing LEED certification) and assist grantees with concrete next steps (e.g., by advising on securing funding to support upfront costs). We are excited to be demonstrating how embedding sustainability and resilience goals in the design, building, and operating processes can help meet the needs of climate resiliency and cost effectiveness as we face an increasingly erratic climate future.
If you are interested in learning more about the RFQ process for selecting consultants, please reach out to Sophia Winston, email@example.com, or check out the open RFQ: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/gbuconsulting
WPF grantees should contact their WPF Program Officer or contact for more information about this program and how they can opt in for technical support and guidance on embedding sustainability and resilience into their upcoming capital projects.